Had Pranabda become PM in 2012, political events post 2014 would have been different: Venu Rajamony
During his presidency, Rajamony says, Mukherjee believed defending the Constitution was his prime responsibility. Rajamony adds that one of his most important reforms was to open up the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the public and make it a democratic institution.
Venu Rajamony – Ambassador of India to the Netherlands, who was Pranab Mukherjee’s Press Secretary for five years at the President House, remembers him as a leader who was not only an authority on parliamentary procedures and history but was also the principal troubleshooter for Congress during UPA I and II.
During his presidency, Rajamony says, he believed defending the Constitution was his prime responsibility. Rajamony adds that one of Pranab Mukherjee’s most important reforms was to open up the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the public and make it a democratic institution. “He strongly believed that Rashtrapati Bhavan belongs to the nation and there should be greater participation by ordinary Indians in its activities. This is when regular tours of the public were started at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and its libraries and archives were thrown open to scholars,” Rajamony told HT over the phone from Netherlands.
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“This legacy of Pranab Da should be safeguarded and protected,” Rajamony adds.
A scholar of politics, economics and foreign affairs, Pranab Mukherjee was admired by all, across political parties for his knowledge, experience and wisdom. “He was capable of uniting different political parties and finding common ground,” the Ambassador says.
His first and last love, Rajamony describes, was Parliament. “It is in the Parliament that he was most happy and he believed it was the Parliament which made him who he was. On many occasions during his tenure as President, Pranabda would sit with longing in front of the television watching debates in Parliament and say, ‘I miss being in the House. I wish I was there, participating in those debates’,” Rajamony told HT.
Recalling the former President’s sharp memory, Rajamony said, “He could remember events, dates and numbers and was considered a walking encyclopedia.” “Senior officials who had to brief him would do so with fear because he would always know more than them. Pranabda could easily cite budget figures going back to the earliest budget presented in Parliament after independence,” he adds.
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Asserting that the former President was “old-fashioned”, Rajamony said he believed that much of what he knew and had seen would die with him. “(The Then PM) Indira Gandhi once remarked that if anyone tried to make Pranabda cough up secrets, only smoke would come out.”
“Pranabda maintained copious diaries throughout his life but was not interested in them seeing the light of the day for as long as he was alive,” the Ambassador added.
The Indian Foreign Service officer, who also served with Pranab Mukherjee for two years in the finance ministry, said that Pranab Da deserved more.
If Pranab Da had become the Prime Minister and Dr Manmohan Singh had moved to Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2012, political events post 2014 would perhaps have been very different, Rajamony adds.
Paying tribute to Pranab Da, the Ambassador added that “his life and memory will inspire others in public life to emulate him and live up to his high standards.”